Viacom’s MTV Starts Web Business That Gives Artists Cut

Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s MTV is creating artist-focused websites where musicians can sell songs, concert tickets and merchandise, as the cable network seeks closer business ties with performers.

Starting in May, MTV will allow musicians to claim their sites, allowing them to upload music, videos and photos, and to sync pages with social-media accounts, MTV said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The pages will go public about the time of MTV’s Video Music Awards in September.

MTV is consolidating the disparate online outlets artists use to share music, videos and messages with fans, while also creating a new platform for sales. Piracy and falling CD revenue tied to a shift toward online retailers such as Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iTunes have decreased the money artists make from traditional recording, while lower concert-ticket sales have reduced revenue from touring.

“We felt like the world needed a place that’s comprehensive and thorough and that allows artists to connect with fans at scale,” Shannon Connolly, vice president of digital-music strategy at the New York-based company’s MTV Music Group, said in an interview. “The goal is to help artists get paid.”

Tip Jar

Viacom’s Artists.MTV initiative, which also includes the VH1 and CMT music channels, will share any advertising revenue generated on the pages with the artists. Through an agreement with Topspin Media Inc., an online music merchant, the artists will receive the majority of revenue from sales of music, tickets and goods. Artists signed to record companies can direct traffic to other stores. All the money from a tip jar on the pages will go to the musicians.

Google Inc.’s YouTube and Vevo.com share ad revenue from music videos, while Spotify Ltd. and other streaming services are starting to pay royalties.

MTV averages about 60 million monthly visitors, Connolly said. The new pages will contain videos from MTV, including live performances and other appearances by the artists, as well as clips aggregated from sources the network licenses.

Unsigned acts and the biggest stars can create pages, Connolly said. The network, which currently hosts about 10,000 artist-specific sites, will have more than 1 million pages when the service becomes publicly available.

Centralizing Messages

“Music fans should be able to search for any artist and never strike out,” Connolly said. “You should never strike out, you should always get a result.”

The pages will also allow artists to post once and publish everywhere, Connolly said. The product is designed to centralize posts, whether on Facebook Inc. (FB)’s social network, Twitter Inc.’s microblog site or other online sharing services, she said.

MTV won’t force artists to use its chosen retailers, Connolly said. Artists can use their MTV pages to direct visitors to tracks for sale at Apple’s’s iTunes, to tour promotions at Live Nation Entertainment Inc. (LYV) or to ad-supported music videos at Vevo.com.

“The goal here is to give artists the opportunity to monetize what they do,” Connolly said. “Artists can get heard, get promoted and get paid.”

After May, judging on the basis of audience and industry recommendations, MTV, VH1 and CMT will select an artist each month to feature on-air in videos, in music for TV shows and in promos, Van Toffler, president of Viacom’s Music Group, said yesterday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

MTV has signed up high-profile artists to start out the service, Connolly said, declining to offer specifics. MTV will provide those details when the service goes online, she said.

Viacom, controlled by Chairman Sumner Redstone, fell less than 1 percent to $47.10 at yesterday’s close in New York. The stock has climbed 3.7 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.